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A View on the ACT National Conference 2017

Greg Dawson is a Citizenship teacher at Garth Hill College.

On Tuesday 4 July, I attended the ACT National Conference at Middlesex University. As my first piece of non-compulsory CPD (just finishing my NQT year), I really wasn’t too sure what to expect, however I found the conference incredibly useful and interesting. The day was broken up into a number of different style events, including keynote addresses, sofa conversations with Q&As and workshops.

I also connected with Citizenship colleagues from around the country in a way I could not otherwise have done so and for me, I believe that will be the most useful element of the whole day.

The Keynotes and Sofa Conversations
In the morning, we had a session on how to respond to the Prevent agenda in a useful and engaging way. It was really interesting to hear about the research undertaken, highlighting that pupils feel they have an urgent need to know about global issues and how to make sense of the news. It was clear to me from the keynote that, while of course we deal with many of these issues every day in the Citizenship classroom, I could personally make a stronger link to what the media are saying on these issues in the everyday. I’ve therefore committed myself (especially now it’s published!) to spend 15 minutes a fortnight with each class looking at and critiquing what the media is saying on a specific topic.

We were also given lots of information on the Deliberative Classroom project undertaken by ACT and funded by the Department for Education. This is designed to help develop topical debating skills and even gives resources to parents as well! There is already a good-sized resource that will only get bigger as more packs are to be published over the next 18 months. I’m already considering how I can integrate these ideas into my department’s existing schemes of work.

The Workshops
In picking the workshops, I had a real issue on which to choose as unfortunately I could only pick two, but I could see a clear use for all five! I decided to do “Assessment Without Levels” and “Human Rights Education”. For the former, it was really interesting to see what other schools were doing in terms of new assessment methods at Key Stage 3. ACT also shared their assessment grid, on which we all gave feedback. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the revised version and using that, along with the ideas developed in the workshop to take discussions forward on how to improve on our own assessment grid with my Head of Department.

For my second workshop on human rights education, we had a role-play on Socratic debating skills, something I’ve previously come into contact with, however have yet to trial in the classroom myself. It reminded me what a useful technique it could be, especially in a mixed ability set. After seeing my timetable for next year (with a number of lower ability sets), the guidance given from the teacher leading the workshop, who regularly teaches top-level sets, will surely be invaluable.

The day was a resounding success for me. I came away re-energised, which is no small feat after an NQT year including an Ofsted inspection!

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